Foster + Partners in Mecca

With views of the Kaaba


It is obligatory for every able Muslim to travel to Mecca at least once in life, granting they have the resources to. This makes the city of Islam’s holiest site one of the most crowded on the planet. To help deal with the serious problem of accommodating pilgrims – in this case moneyed pilgrims – the real estate company Jabal Omar Development organized a competition to bring in proposals for an enormous mixed-use complex where hotels and luxury apartments make up the lion’s share. The commission has just been awarded to the firm Foster Partners. Located along the city’s main axes, between the Grand Mosque – the largest in the world and surrounding the Kaaba – and the Haramain high-speed railway station, the construction is terraced to afford multiple views over the Kaaba, and it decreases in height from a plinth with communal and commercial areas to the cluster of very slender towers containing hotels and apartments. Like other works that the British architect Norman Foster has carried out in the Islamic world, the project draws inspiration from traditional Arab architecture, although its most striking feature is not stylistic at all, but economic, given that it will be executed on a budget approaching 1.5 billion dollars.

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